Simon, thanks for the note.
California Steel Industries (CSI) produces about $1.3B in steel annually; they save on shipping and turn solid profits, all in the face of far tighter regulations than our friends in China. As wages rise in China we will likely see more of this backward swinging pendulum.
But your point is well taken - certainly we import far more than we did, and this IS a global problem. Some smart policymakers are considering adding life cycle assessments into these regulations which would account for those Chinese emissions. But it becomes a complex supply chain problem very quickly. Ideally we get all counties marching in the same direction against emissions INCLUDING, ahem, the US. Easier said than done.
The good news in California is that some policies are getting away from emissions entirely. The CalGreen code calls for rapidly renewable materials in construction, fast growing local plants like bamboo. The new carbon trading system is hoping to instigate high tech companies to develop more efficient technologies (some proceeds go to gov't research too). And the Energy Code has drastically cut emissions with efficiency boosts unheard of in the US - this is low hanging fruit on things like insulation and lighting controls.
We visited the Bao Steel production facility in Shanghai in March. The tour buses traverse roads that are all heavily forested, and they claim to have a zoo and 300 deer on premises. The presenter's speech (to this American audience) was focused on how green their facilities were. But in the end it was a dreary dirty steel plant, if rather impressive in its scale.